Divide and Conquer: a Hygienic, Efficient, and Reliable Assembly-Line for Housekeeping, Rowan WANG, Xiao Alison Chen, Jianghua Zhang. Forthcoming in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.
Problem Definition: This work focuses on the hotel
housekeeping process. In a field study, a possible channel of disease
transmission between consecutive guests in hotel rooms is revealed. In
order to prevent the transmission, an innovative assembly-line
housekeeping method is developed.
Academic / Practical Relevance:
The transmission of infectious diseases during hotel stays (e.g., by
touching unclean towels or bed lines) has been reported globally. Under
the current COVID-19 pandemic, having contact with saliva or mucus left
by an infected person could cause infection. The standard housekeeping
process used by the majority of hotels leaves a channel for new towels
and bed linens in refreshed rooms to be contaminated by bacteria or
viruses from used towels and bed linens. Eliminating the contamination
channel and preventing disease transmission is crucial for protecting
the health and safety of hotel guests, especially under a disease
outbreak such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The research is conducted during a field study at a hotel. To design
the assembly-line process, the service time distribution of each
housekeeping operational step is characterized using data collected from
the practice at hundreds of hotel rooms. An optimization model is
proposed to optimize the operation. Through a pilot test, the
performance of the assembly-line and the traditional housekeeping
methods are compared.
Results: The pilot test
results show that the assembly-line housekeeping method has the
potential to improve not only hygienic standards but also labor
efficiency and service quality (error rate).
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic draws tremendous public attention
on disease transmission and public hygiene. The principle of the
assembly-line method (i.e., eliminating contamination channels through
teamwork operational design) can be applied to not only hotel
housekeeping practices but also many other service settings. It leads to
hygienic, efficient, and reliable operations, at no additional cost.